Thursday, September 17, 2020

One Absurd Type of Normative Ethical Relativism

Richard Brandt, in his essay "Ethical Relativism," distinguishes between three types: 1) descriptive relativism; 2) metaethical relativism; and 3) normative relativism. (In Moser and Carson, Moral Relativism: A Reader)

Descriptive relativism states that "the values, or ethical principles, of individuals conflict in a fundamental way. A special form of this thesis, called "cultural relativism," is that such ethical disagreements often follow cultural lines." (25)

Metaethical relativism "denies that there is always one correct moral evaluation." (26)

Normative relativism "asserts that something is wrong or blameworthy is some person or group - variously defined - thinks it is wrong or blameworthy." (28)

One type of normative relativism is considered to be absurd. Some say that: "If someone thinks that it is right (or wrong) to do A. then it is right (or wrong) to do A." Brandt writes: "This thesis has a rather wide popular acceptance today but is considered absurd by philosophers if it is taken to assert that what someone thinks is right really is right for him. It is held to be absurd because, taken in this way, it implies that there is no point in debating with a person what is right for him to do unless he is in doubt himself; the thesis says that if he believes that A is right, then it is right, at least for him." (28)

I've encountered this kind of thinking in my philosophy classes. "Right" or "wrong" are defined by what one thinks or believes to be right or wrong. If that were true then we're not really talking about ethics but about psychology. If someone believes it is right to kill Jews for fun, then for them it is right for them to kill Jews for fun. Which is, of course, absurd.

(Note: the logic textbook I used is Vaughn's Power of Critical Thinking, which has a section on cultural relativism and its absurd [incoherent] implication that, on cultural relativism, a culture cannot be mistaken and is therefore infallible.)

I Am Not a Marxist (and Know Why)

                              (I took this photo of a rare two-headed swan at Sterling State Park (Michigan))

I am not a Marxist.

No one, as of yet, has accused me of being a Marxist. 

I'm being cautious here. Because, in these times of heightened irrationality and jumping to unwarranted conclusions, someone, somewhere, will read my first sentence and post, on social media, that I am a Marxist.

Once again, I am not.

The term 'Marxism' is being used today, a lot. I am convinced that the great majority of persons who use this term do not know what it means. That is, if you could get a group of people together in a coffee shop. Sit them down. Drink some coffee. Let's say some of them claim affinity with Marxism, while others despise Marxism. Then, have them put their laptops and cell phones away. This is so they cannot google the answer to the question you are going to ask them. At this point, some will appear to have lost their mind.

The question you put to each of them is this. "On a piece of paper, answer the question 'What is Marxism?"" Most will be unable to answer this. Even though they claim to be either for it, or against it. If that is true, doesn't it strike you as odd? It would be like your doctor telling you that you have a ventricular septal defect. You ask your doctor, "What is that?" Your doctor replies, "I don't know. Let me google it."

As a philosophy professor, I have done this kind of exercise with many students over decades. Not just with 'Marxism,' but with an assortment of hot-button terms. Like 'postmodernism.'

In 1977 my seminary theology professor asked me to teach a seminary class on contemporary views of man (personhood). I accepted. I presented a biblical view of humanity, after teaching philosophies such as postmodernism and, yes, Marxism. (Note: just because I taught the Marxist view of humanity does not mean I am a Marxist.)

Thus began decades of studying, on and off, the competing philosophical anthropologies. This has proven valuable to me, since, arguably, the issue of personal identity is the issue of the day. I have read a stack of books and articles on the matter of human identity. I have taught on this issue. And, I embrace the beauty and supremacy of the Christian understanding of personhood.

Which means,

I am not a Marxist. 

Do you understand just what I am here denying? Without googling it? Maybe. Here I give you the benefit of my doubt.

As for me, as best I can, I keep studying. And, I google things I don't know about or don't understand. I recently finished Eric Fromm's Marx's Concept of Man. Here's an example from Fromm, quoting Marx.

"Marx described his own historical method very succinctly: “The way in which men produce their means of subsistence depends first of all on the nature of the actual means they find in existence and have to reproduce. This mode of production must not be considered simply as being the reproduction of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather, it is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their life, a definite mode of life on their part. As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production.”

If you understand this, then perhaps you can see why (I say again) I am not a Marxist

It seems important to first understand, and only after understanding, to evaluate. Some of you are students. I now encourage you to become students of what you are either affirming or denying. This will mean going slow. It will mean refraining from speaking on a subject that you don't yet adequately understand. It will mean, when you're discussing some hot topic, you may say, humbly, "I don't know enough yet to speak on that."

As for those who think they understand Marxism, Fromm is pessimistic. He writes:

"It is one of the peculiar ironies of history that there are no limits to the misunderstanding and distortion of theories, even in an age when there is unlimited access to the sources; there is no more drastic example of this phenomenon than what has happened to the theory of Karl Marx in the last few decades. There is continuous reference to Marx and to Marxism in the press, in the speeches of politicians, in books and articles written by respectable social scientists and philosophers; yet with few exceptions, it seems that the politicians and newspapermen have never as much as glanced at a line written by Marx, and that the social scientists are satisfied with a minimal knowledge of Marx. Apparently they feel safe in acting as experts in this field, since nobody with power and status in the social-research empire challenges their ignorant statements." (Fromm wrote these words in 1961.)


If this post interests you and you want more, you must read Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise

Plus, I recently googled "best ways to bake a potato in the oven." Because I did not know (we always microwave baked potatoes). After I just wrote that sentence, I googled 'plural form of potato'. Is it with an 'e', or without an 'e'. Because I was uncertain.

Giving Advice as a Form of Judgmentalism

Our kitchen

(I re-post this periodically.)

Unasked-for advice is usually received as criticism.

Imagine I come to you and say, "Did you know there are some really nice shirts on sale at Kohls today?" 

The thought comes to you: "He doesn't like my clothes." 

This "friendly advice" is received as a form of criticism and judgmentalism.

Often (but not entirely), people give unasked-for advice in an attempt to change people. If you want to advise someone because you see they are having a problem and you've got the answer, try asking their permission: "May I suggest something?" Or, I may ask you "What is a good restaurant to eat at?" Then, you give me your thoughts on this.

Or: "I advise you not to drive down Telegraph Road today. There's major construction going on." To which I say, "Thank you."

That's cool. But a lot of advice-giving is about control and manipulation. It produces anger and bitterness. Who likes a controlling person who is out to change them? 

Linda and I ask each other for lots of advice. We give each other permission to speak into our lives. When this happens, we don't feel criticized, because we don't criticize each other.

Sometimes, giving advice comes out of a person who is angry (frustrated, irritated). A person who advises you with a smile on their face may be upset with you. Not always. But this is common. 

On changing other people: you cannot do it. Period. You can force people to do something. You can threaten them, imprison them, and guilt-manipulate them. But the human heart, the human spirit, cannot be changed by other people. 

The human heart is influenced by other people. That's different. Many people have influenced me. One now comes to mind. 

He was in my church. I was privileged to be in a small group with him and his wife that met weekly. He was a great scholar, which I admired. He spoke when asked, and never advised when not asked. I found this intriguing because he was a psychologist, and psychologists (so I thought) were there to give advice. His character and demeanor, humility and Christ-in-him were compelling. So much so that, eventually, I sought him out to advise me about some things. Which he did, with wisdom and love.

Instead of advising others whether they ask for it or not, focus on connecting with Jesus, and allow Jesus to work on the stuff inside of you that he knows about and is able to change.

I need to be continually saved from my own self. You, "the other," cannot do this. You are not my Savior. But if you remain connected to Jesus and allow him to change your heart about things, the chances increase that God will use you to effect real heart-change in me.

The life goal is to know Christ, not advise others. God can use the brokenness effected in you to bring breakthrough to the people around you.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Return of Sin

(Lake Michigan sunset, St Joseph, Michigan)

A long time ago clinical psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote a book called Whatever Became of Sin? I remember reading it when I was in seminary.

Well, it's back. A vast majority of people in America believe in sin, or something very close to sin.
The biblical Greek word for sin, hamartano, means "to miss the mark." The idea is that there is a moral target to aim at. To miss the target is to "sin."

For example, someone who loots and burns buildings and robs innocent people of their means of income is sinning. There's a moral target out there, and they have missed it.

Or, for example, the police officer who killed George Floyd, in the act of doing so, sinned. He missed the moral point.

What is interesting to me is that people who believe, as I do, that Thou shalt not loot and burn buildings for non-redemptive purposes is wrong, and who believe Thou shalt not murder is morally wrong, believe such things are wrong, objectively.

That is, they seem to believe that these moral targets are true for all persons, and that no one should engage in them, and that those who do should be tried and punished. That is, they believe in some objective standard of justice. (One very good book to understand "justice" is Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?, by Harvard jurisprudential professor Michael Sandel.)

An "objective truth" is a truth that, if true, is true for everyone, whether they believe in it or not. An example of an objective truth is Abraham Lincoln was once President of the United States. That statement, if true (which it is), is true for everyone.

So, the belief that Racism is wrong is a moral claim that, if true, is true for everyone. It's a target all should aim their hearts and minds and behaviors toward.

What's interesting here is that, in America, most people are moral relativists. That is, they do not believe objective moral values exist. But if they protest and hold signs saying Racism is wrong, then they tacitly reveal their true belief in objective moral values. They believe there is no moral target for all to aim at, while lifting up signs that identify the moral target all should aim at. Some accuse evangelical Christians of being dogmatic, and are themselves dogmatic about this. (This drives philosophers like myself crazy!)

If moral relativism is true, if objective moral values do not exist, then "right" and "wrong" are subjective values. They are like personal tastes. So, if you think Racism is not wrong, and I am a moral relativist who believes moral values can be "right for me but wrong for you," then I cannot hold you morally responsible for your affirmation of racism.

But you, dear reader, affirm the moral claim Racism is wrong. You hold racism to be wrong universally. It functions like a commandment for you.

Hence, the return of sin. 

Objective moral values find no epistemic warrant outside the existence of God. Anyone who thinks otherwise is, at best, a Platonist (moral values have objective ontological status), and, at worst, morally incoherent. (See here.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

What Is "Progressive Christianity?"


Someone asked me this week about "progressive Christianity." I'm glad they asked, because I've read, for decades, authors who are said to be aligned with progressive Christianity.

My brief answer is: Progressive Christianity is not Real Christianity.

Why would I say that?

Because of what authors associated with Progressive Christianity declare. (Note: I am concerned with their core, dogmatic beliefs. Of course someone who calls themselves a progressive Christian can make some good statements, and ask some good questions.)

For example, John Shelby Spong. I read Spong in the 1980s. He got some attention because he denied the historical resurrection of Jesus. For Spong, Jesus was not, in history, raised from the dead.

Pause here. 

The resurrection of Christ is core, essential Christianity. Like C.S. Lewis wrote, the resurrection is Mere Christianity.

Were someone to try and sell me a car that had no engine, I'd say it's not a real car. By analogy, do not try to sell me a "Christianity" without a resurrection." The apostle Paul thinks similarly in 1 Corinthians 15:13-18. He writes:

13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Put existentially, if I did not believe in the historical resurrection of Christ, there is no way on this planet that I would self-identity as a Christian.

And, I have studied the historicity of the resurrection since 1970, when William Lane Craig was my campus pastor. My PhD dissertation at Northwestern University employed German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg's reasoning about the resurrection. 

While I am not to judge, I cannot help but wondering if someone who denies the resurrection is not actually a Christian. Since Paul, again, writes in Romans 10:8-9, If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

I've got two of Spong's books on my shelf. I read them, years ago. If this is progressive Christianity, then it's not actual Christianity.

John Hick is another writer often associated with progressive Christianity. Hick is famous (in philosophy of religion, at least) for his argument for Universalism; namely, that there are many paths to God, and that all eventually will be saved. I read his materials in the 1980s, and taught them in my MCCC Philosophy of Religion classes. Also, my friend Bill Craig did one of his two PhDs under John Hick.

Is Progressive Christianity universalistic? It seems so. Here's a website called The website lists "8 Points of Progressive Christianity."  

Point number 2 is this:

"We affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience “God,” the Sacredness, Oneness and Unity of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom, including Earth, in our spiritual journey."

There are so many things non-Christian in this dogmatic statement that I don't know where to begin. Note how "God" is in italics. Why? Because the word "God" is just one way of pointing to something, whatever, maybe "Oneness," which smells like metaphysical monism, even pantheism.

My academic studies tell me it is foolish to try to conflate the major religions. On this see (the Non-Christian scholar) Boston U's Stephen Prothero's God Is Not One. Prothero convincingly and correctly argues that the idea that the major world religions are different paths leading up the same mountain is sophomoric.

The claim of Christianity is that - like it or not - Jesus is the only Way to God. Any reductionist, or deconstructionist version of Christianity is not, as I see things, the real thing. And, as Prothero admits, even though he is not a Christian, it is insulting to the world religions. Even unloving towards them. 

Walking hand-in-hand with a denial of the resurrection and a belief in universalism is an eisegetical misreading of the Bible. The Bible becomes a pretext for what culture moves one to believe, rather than an authoritative narrative. (On this see, e.g., N.T. Wright, Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today.) Progressive Christians have a low view of the Bible. I read them as reading into the biblical texts that current "evolving" beliefs of culture. On the other hand, I, and many New Testament scholars, are involved in a renaissance of historical Jesus studies. In many ways, this is a wonderful time to be a New Testament scholar! (And, BTW, the Bible is not just a collection of poems. For example, the four gospels are widely acknowledged as examples of ancient biographies. That is their literary genre, and they are to be read that way.)

Point #5 on the progressive Christianity website is this:

"Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning with an open mind and open heart, than in absolutes or dogma."

As a philosopher, this is puzzling, even eliciting a smile. This belief statement is an absolute. This is progressive Christian dogma. And, no, “questions” are not of “more value” than answers. See, e.g., science. In science, questions may lead to answers. The quest of science is not to simply question, but to discover answers. (Any student of the philosophy of science knows that "dogma" exists in science. See, for example, Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.)

I find this entire belief (it's a statement, and statements are beliefs) incoherent, even though flowery and poetic.

More could be said, e.g., about Nadia Boltz-Weber's progressive Christianity and her affirmation of nonmarital sex, attempting to use the Bible to support nonmarital sex. Because, believe it or not, to abstain from sex before the wedding night might make the wedding bed more challenging. As if that was the point of it all, right? 

Bolz writes, "Why do you think it is that the church has tried to control human sexuality so much throughout the ages?" Wow. The fallacy here is that the question assumes the church has tried to control human sexuality through the ages. Such a broad, sweeping claim cannot be historically supported. As if people like myself, who embrace sexual purity before marriage, are doing this because we are trying to control people - ha!

I see progressive Christianity as not fitting into the biblical text, but reinterpreting the Bible through the lens of an ever-evolving culture. "Ever-evolving" seems to be a popular term for progressive Christians. So, because history demonstrates ethical cycles, perhaps Puritanism will one day make a comeback, and be popular. If that happens, I assume some ever-evolving Christians will embrace it. And the Puritan Christians will attack the Progressive Christians as being outdated and controlling. This is possible, since in naturalistic evolutionary theory "evolving" has nothing to do with necessary "progress" towards a desired goal.

If this is at all close to the truth, I confess that I cannot affirm the core dogmas of progressive Christianity. For ethical, existential, and intellectual reasons. 

And, in my study of history, I find nothing "progressive" about it at all.

And, BTW, I have read certain progressive Christians who mock evangelical Christianity. That's people like me. Not very loving, or "progressive," right? So I recommend - go deeper than the labels.

For Jesus-Followers: How to Discuss Same-Sex Unions


Friday, September 01, 2017

How to Formulate a Christian Perspective on Same-Sex Unions (and a Bit About The Nashville Statement)

Cloud formation, Monroe County

Marriage is only between a man and a woman.

- Sexual relations outside of marriage are immoral.  

I affirm those two statements. 

Does this mean I am hateful, mean-spirited, and intolerant? Am I a mean-spirited bigot, filled with hate in my heart for those I do not agree with? I don't believe so (I do have problems; I'm not always as loving as I should be.)

"I don't agree with your beliefs" does not equal "I am filled with hate." If that were true, all of us would hate everyone, even our own selves. 

How do I think about these two beliefs? 

What about the morality of same-sex unions? 

For a Jesus-follower the question is: Does God affirm sex-same unions? Here are the steps to take, as I see things. (BTW - our culture has already decided on this one. But in matters of Christian understanding, the moral pronouncements of the prevailing culture are largely irrelevant, except as they find their roots in Christian theism.)

This process is a slow-cooker. In my case it has spanned five decades (!!!) of thinking, studying, researching, dialoguing, and praying. You probably do not have the time to do this. But note this: If you are mostly unfamiliar with the literature, then do not hastily judge me. (Like, "How hateful John is!")

Here's the template. 


On a scale of 0-10, how authoritative is the Bible for you (with '0' being no authority, and '10' being fully authoritative). This is the first matter that must be discussed, without which - from the Christian standpoint - there will be no meaningful outcome.


If the Bible has no authority, or very little authority, then the Christian discussion is over.

However, I am interested in the person who gives the Bible little or no authority. I want to ask them:

"What text (narrative) is authoritative for you? Have you thought about this?"

Again, if someone goes to Step 1a, then the intra-Christian discussion is over. But, since everyone has a worldview, a narrative they live by, what is theirs?

After years of teaching philosophy, I have concluded that few people understand and evaluate their worldview. And note: the rejection of all worldviews is itself a worldview. Like, e.g., the rejection of all metanarratives is itself a metanarrative (contra Foucault, et. al.).


To say that the Scriptures have great authority is to say they guide and influence our faith and life.


We must handle the Word of God correctly, or rightly.

To do this requires study. Two good books on how to interpret the Bible are:

That is, to enter more fully into this discussion at this point, one should have some understanding of principles of biblical interpretation. 

Everyone cannot invest decades of study into this. But it helps avoiding horrendous mistakes in reading the Scriptures. For example, context is important in the interpretation of anything, to include interpreting the Bible. Because a text without a context is simply a pretext to say what you want the text to say.


This is the question for follows of Jesus who give the Scriptures great authority.

As Craig Keener writes"My primary vocation is as a Bible scholar, and I need to explain the text faithfully."

Correct. The issue here is: what does the biblical text say, as opposed to what we might wish the text would say.

This is why, e.g., what the prevailing cultural wisdom says is irrelevant to the interpreting of the Bible, and any text, for that matter.


The person who ends up here must justify their interpretation of Scripture, and conclude that God affirms same-sex unions. They might find themselves agreeing with people like Dan Via (presents view #2) and Matthew Vines, et. al., for example.


The person who ends up here must justify their interpretation of Scripture.

At this point I have long laid out my cards on the table. I'm with Keener (and N.T. WrightBen WitheringtonTim KellerRobert GagnonWesley Hill, Michael Brown, et. al) when he writes: 

"I believe that the biblical passages about homosexual behavior are fairly clear... most exegetes, whether they agree personally with Paul or not, still regard Romans 1 as disagreeing with homosexual practice... I would be happy to be persuaded otherwise, but so far it continues to appear to me that this is where the exegesis strongly points." 

Me too. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Purity Is the result of a Great Longing

(I'm re-posting this for someone who asked. Someone told them that God affirms premarital sex. I think not.)

1 John 3:2-3 say:

We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, 
for we shall see him as he is. 
All who have this hope in him purify themselves, 
just as he is pure.

This is not a religious thing, not some legalistic command accompanied by an angry face telling us to "Be pure!" It is a RESULT. 

It is the RESULT of an GREAT DESIRE. Purity is a fruit of desire-attachment.


This GREAT DESIRE to BE LIKE HIM is fueled by a HOPE. 

This HOPE is the expectation that one day WE SHALL SEE HIM as he is.

All who share this hope desire and admire Him and long to not only be with Him but to be like Him. We want to be like Jesus, not to impress anyone, but because we are His children and children want to be like their parents. Like Father, like daughters and sons.

I become what I long to behold. One day I shall behold Christ face to face. N.T. Wright writes:

"What an amazing moment! To come face to face, eye to eye, with the people he had loved but never seen. There is something transformative about eye contact. People who spend a lot of time looking at one another sometimes come to resemble each other. Perhaps this is because they are instinctively copying one another’s facial expressions until their muscles and tissue begin to be reshaped in that way. Imagine beginning that process at last after years of love which had been expressed through words and touch but never before through sight." (N.T. Wright, The Early Christian Letters for Everyone, p. 149)

Our deepest longing is to come face to face with Him. "To see his smile, to catch his facial expression, to begin to know him in a whole new way." (Ib.)

All who have this GREAT DESIRE purify themselves now as the RESULT of wanting to be like Him.

Purity is the result of a great longing.

An Appeal for Purity

Image result for john piippo purity
(From Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry)

(I am re-posting this for someone who asked. Someone told them that God affirms premarital sex. I think not.)

Before I was a follower of Jesus one of the things I wanted to do was have sex with girls. The truth is, I didn't have as much sex as some of my fraternity brothers did. Some of them were doing it left and right, and I only could look on with envy. My understanding was that this was normal. In a Godless universe as I understood it, who really cares?

When I entered the Kingdom of God things were different. In my new life I was told that genital intercourse was reserved for marriage. This radically different viewpoint made sense to me, and still does. 

I do not expect this to make sense to someone who is not a God-believer, or not a Jesus-follower. If that's you, I think I understand. You are as I once was. Like, what's the big deal about premarital and extramarital intercourse? Of course it's no big deal, if there is no God.

In my fraternity one of the brothers had a little black book. The black book contained the names of girls on campus. It had numerical ratings from '1' to '10' next to their names. A '1' meant there is no way she would have sex with you on the first date. A '10' meant she would definitely have sex with you on the first date. My fraternity brother charged ten dollars to look at the black book, which was constantly being updated. Many of us, including me, thought this was so cool, because we wanted to have sex, almost more than anything. Girls were for our pleasure. If there is no Divine Moral Command-Giver, there's nothing wrong with that.

The Kingdom of God is different from this. God's Kingdom is upside-down compared to this. Kingdom thinking operates in the light, not the twilight.

I'm writing to any of you who say you love and worship God and Jesus and The Kingdom. If you are screwing around, why? In God's Kingdom this is unloving and unrighteousness. In their book Real Relationships Les and Leslie Parrott write:

"Having genital sex before marriage is clearly not in line with God’s principles. Sexual intercourse is a “life-uniting act,” as our friend Lewis Smedes calls it. That’s why sex outside of marriage is “sex-to-soon.” It violates the intended purpose of sex. “It is wrong,” according to Smedes, “because unmarried people thereby engage in a life-uniting act without a life-uniting intent…. Intercourse signs and seals—and maybe even delivers—a life-union; and life union means marriage."
Parrott, Les. Real Relationships: From Bad to Better and Good to Great (Kindle Locations 1966-1969). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 

In God's Kingdom, do not mess with this. It is the road to relational failure (see Parrott's book for the supportive scholarship). 

I know others are doing it, but why care about what others think and do? Why are you using "what others think" as a premise to support an immoral conclusion? That kind of thinking is what created the mess you and I were once in. Choose your kingdom and embrace it.

Our sex-worshiping culture reveals that something has gone wrong. C. S. Lewis once wrote:

“You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act—that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?”

Look - sex was God's idea, not the enemy's. The destroyer of our soul works by taking things God made and then OCD-perverting them so that our love for the distortion destroys us from the inside. Surely the One who invented sexuality knows best how it is to be enjoyed, right? 

If you are a Jesus-lover but have blown it in this area, come back. You know about the cross. You know about forgiveness.  You know that repentance means doing a '180' and changing directions. Step up and be the prodigal son. Do it now.

Stop rationalizing your failure. Rationalization belongs to the kingdom of darkness. Rationalization muddies things. What once was clear to you has become cloudy. Just how many translations of 1 Corinthians 6:18 do you need? Our loving God, thankfully, pursues after us and then, counter-culturally, throws a party in heaven when we come home.

Flee from sexual immorality. (NIV)

There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. (The Message)

Run from immoral behavior(The Voice)

In Praise of Holiness and Purity

"How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing (and perhaps, like you, I have met it only once) it is irresistible." 
- C.S. Lewis, in Letters to an American Lady

(I'm re-posting this for someone who asked. Someone told them that God affirms premarital sex. I think not.)

I am calling our people to a revivalist lifestyle. This is for me, too. This includes a call to holiness and purity. 

I recently filled out a recommendation for someone who wants to go to Bethel School of Ministry. I like how the form connects revivalism and holiness. 

Linda and I have counseled premarriages and marriages for decades, and have many stories of couples who waited to have sex until they were married. Linda and I waited, too. This helped secure a foundation of trust to build our relationship on.

Here is one story about relational purity. It's an example of the beauty of holiness.

A few years ago Linda and I did premarital counseling with an engaged couple. We use the FOCCUS premarital inventory. It's so well-put-together, giving us an MRI of the relationship. It asks all the questions related to issues we want to get into. Most couples enjoy taking the inventory, and end up talking about a number of important things they have not yet thought of.

Jason and Andrea had known each other for many years. They dated for several years. She was working on a graduate degree, and he managed a business. The FOCCUS survey led us to talk about sex.

"Have you had sex together?" we asked them.

"Neither of us have ever had sexual intercourse or come close to it," they responded in unison. Andrea said, "When Jason told me he loved me and was interested in pursuing marriage, I immediately told him, 'There's no way I'm having sex before I get married.'"

"How did Jason respond to this?"

"He respected me for it," said Andrea, "and never has pressed himself on me."

Jason added, "It's not always been easy, because I love Andrea and look forward to sex in marriage. But I agree with her. God wants us to wait, and we are waiting."

I stopped.

I was stunned.

This was a holy moment.

Jason and Andrea are two attractive, intelligent, and successful people with great futures. Yes, they are Jesus-followers, but many Jesus-followers who get married have premarital sex because "they can't wait." 

I don't wish to judge them for that. Yet, I want to bow before Jason and Andrea and do a little worship! Who are these rare, unusual people who take the road less traveled and delay gratification? Especially in our sex-addicted culture where sex is used to sell everything from hamburgers to vacuum cleaners.

From my pastoral POV I see lots of sex addiction. Sometimes I wonder, falsely I am certain, "Who is not a sex addict today?" Have you ever seen, or counseled one? Addiction is a monster. The French word for addict, as Gerald May has told us, is attache. Attachment. Claw-like attache. Being married or shacking up (I'm not talking about the book The Shack) cannot cure this. 

Our culture of sexual freedom has, ironically, imprisoned many. A sex addict outside of marriage will be a sex addict within marriage (unless The Transformation happens, to be accomplished only by grace).

Somehow, Jason and Andrea escaped the prison house of "sexual freedom."

We told them we were proud of them. Delayed sexual gratification displays self-control and breeds trust.

Linda and I abstained. In my abstinence I was not some religious legalist. I was so screwed up sexually that I just wanted God to heal the garbage of my heart so that, should I marry, I would not infect my life partner and children. When I told Linda I would not be asking her to have sex with me, I asked how this made her feel. She said, "Safe." I didn't love her only for her physical beauty. I wanted her heart. The two are different.

While dating, I waited several months before I kissed her. I will never forget that kiss! We were walking in a park, and it began to lightly rain. A little voice told me, "It is time!" I asked for her permission. She said yes. That kiss lasted only one second, but mega-volts of lightning came through her lips! From then until we got married we kissed only occasionally, and then only for a second or two. Our love and trust and respect only grew. This was wild and unbelievable to me, a former drug-alcohol-fraternity-sex-womanizer. A foundation of faithfulness was being laid from which we have never diverted (for forty-six years).

I don't see that often. When I sat in my office with Jason and Andrea, I got those feelings that have to do with my understanding of real, deep, growing Jesus-love that lasts a lifetime. Because Jason and Andrea have no history of sexual partners and have not sex-partnered with each other, I predict they will stay faithful to one another. They are disease-free, physically and spiritually. In this they are...  pure.

The odds are greatly in their favor. Their children will be blessed. They will pass marital fidelity to their kids. And maybe a couple of children whose parents are named Jason and Andrea will lead the counter-revolution to purity?


A few resources on Jesus-following and sexual purity include:

Every Young Man's Battle, by Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker

Every Young Woman's Battle, by Shannon Ethridge and Steve Arterburn

Moral Revolution: The Naked Truth About Sexual Purity, by Kris Valotten, Jason Valotten, and Bill Johnson 

On morality from our Christian theistic worldview, see Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament.

And, Linda and I plan on writing our book on Relationships.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Pray for America, and the Church

 (I posted this on Sept. 28, 2018.)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Pray for America

Recently I was watching a professional sporting event. One team was not doing well. A few of the players were turning on each other. One player was in the face of the coach, angrily pointing his finger and shouting obscenities. This team is in trouble.

Years ago I did a weekend conference at a church. As I spoke the first evening, the people seemed attentive and friendly. But below the surface there was tension. Some of the leaders were fighting. Anger levels were high. Conflict was losing the day. This church was in trouble, perched on the precipice of ruin.

Linda and I are privileged to meet with many marital couples. Sometimes we engage in healing these relationships. When a marital couple cannot coexist in loving unity (not total uniformity), their marriage is in trouble. Hopelessness occupies their house.

Jesus understood this when he said,

Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, 
and a house divided against itself will fall.
Luke 11:17

It's morning in an America that is deeply divided against itself. If America remains this way, it will be ruined. If America remains this way, it will fall.

To my fellow followers of Jesus: Let us pray for America. For our leaders. 

More specifically, pray for our churches, 

that they would be awakened and revived to exemplify communicating the truth in love, 

that they would seek first God's kingdom before all earthly powers, 

that God would come upon us in heavenly power,

and that the Church would rise up, 

for such a time as this.

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

I'm now writing:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Linda and I then plan to write our book on Relationships